Yogi passed late tonight at the age of 90. Hell of a life he had, too. He and Joe Garagiola were buddies as kids growing up in the Hill neighborhood in St. Louis. Both played catcher, although Yogi was a lot better, obviously.
Yogi played in, I think 75 World Series games in his career. I don’t think anyone’s touching that record.
A baseball great. Nineteen seasons, 14 World Series, and 10 World Series Championships. Unlikely to ever be equaled.
I go through the Hill in St. Louis now and then, an Italian-American city neighborhood known for its restaurants, and there’s a Berra park. I always assumed it was named after Yogi since he grew up there, but now I see it was named after another Berra unrelated to him. A bit odd. We need a Yogi park there.
One of the all-time greats, was Yogi. I’m too young to remember his playing days, but every baseball fan thinks of Yogi Berra whenever the subject of great catchers comes up. Plus, everyone’s heard a Yogi-ism or two.
In the P-D today, Derrick Goold relates a pretty cool “what-if” story.
In 1942, like many ballclubs, the St. Louis Cardinals realized they were going to need a lot more ballplayers, thanks to the war going on and players volunteering or being drafted into service. The team put out a general call for tryouts, and a raft of kids showed up. Hundreds of them.
A kid named Albert Schoendienst apparently hitch-hiked in from rural Illinois. Two kids who were already local legends on The Hill for their baseball and soccer prowess also came: Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola.
As the story goes, Branch Rickey, then still the Cardinals GM, realized that those three fellows were head and shoulders better than everyone else very quickly. He drove all three out to Forest Park to have a major league pitch to them, so he could get one more look at them.
Then he promptly signed Garagiola and Schoendienst for $500 each. For years the story has been that he only offered Berra $250. In 2012, though, Berra said that Rickey didn’t even offer him a contract. In any event, Berra knew he was maybe a little better than Garagiola, and determined to catch on with some other team. Like, one with pinstripes.
The other side of the story makes a little more sense. By the time of the tryout, Rickey had become frustrated with the penurious Cardinals owners at the time and had decided to move to a different club, the Brooklyn Dodgers, the next year. (The Dodgers also offered him a pay raise for that.) Rickey’s biographers have suggested that The Mahatma was no dummy, and clearly knew that Berra was something special, but that Rickey had hoped to hide him or stash him until he could take over at his new club and sign him for the Dodgers.
His buddy and longtime Yankee player Phil Rizzuto became ill and needed assisted living. Every day Yogi would go to the place in the afternoon and play cards with him. When Phil got drowsy, Yogi would hold his hand until he fell asleep and then he would leave.
He did this every single day. Someone asked him why.